blackberry tumble

Blackberry Tumble“The blackberries are dripping from the trees” F remarked as we headed out on a Sunday afternoon walk. The brambles have intertwined themselves with the branches of the wild cherry saplings and boast clusters of lush, shiny, intensely black, berries that parade a range of tart, earthy, and cloyingly sweet fruits that muddle together in a pastry crust to create the central dessert at our Christmas celebration. I already have the bag stashed away in the freezer and daily add to the frozen berry collection as the little boys abandon their containers of berries on the kitchen counter, their bellies aching from the sweet, juicy, goodness that lines our driveway.

But there are only so many frozen blackberries you can use and, after my 90 lb cherry extravaganza earlier this summer, I am not feeling inclined toward canning just now. That leaves a 1 mile stretch of road with bushels of blackberries and I feel sad when I think of them shriveling up on their vines. The only thing to do is enjoy them now, fresh, and often. Every walk takes a little more time, budgeting for the inevitable “berry break,” and I am often reminded of one summer not so long ago, as C and I were preparing to move from here to Colorado when our last few afternoons were spent nibbling blackberry hand pies in the afternoon with cups of strong coffee while the baby slept and C studied for entrance exams. 3 years later, we are back in the Pacific Northwest (indefinitely) in the same house with an almost 4 yr old who is now an over eager berry picker. Today, we also had 19 egg whites that had to vacate the fridge and the brother visiting from the Midwest deserved a proper farewell. After all, he ran the Crater Lake Marathon this weekend and survived the flu that hit up all but 1 of the household in the last 10 days. Thus was born the Blackberry Tumble: a wedge of angel food cake topped with a dollop of softly whipped cream and a spoon of macerated blackberries.

I followed the Food Networks recipe for angel food cake nearly to a T, including the part where you pulverize your granulated sugar into a powder, but then realized I didn’t have cake flour and used unbleached all purpose flour instead. . .friend, I could not tell the difference, the cake was springy and tender, everything I could have hoped for. A teaspoon full of sugar whisked into 3/4 of a cup of heavy whipping cream cut the sweetness of the cake. As for the blackberries, we used a generous 3 cups of freshly picked berries, the zest of half an orange, and sugar to taste. We gently stirred the three ingredients together, allowing the berries to release a bit of their juice and then spooned it generously on top of our cake slices. Their tart-sweet flavor and deep purple color balanced out the composition in what was a pleasing end to a Monday evening and a sweet farewell.

Safe travels brother!

Bethany

Simple Food

“We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar.”

– Tamar Adler An Everlasting Meal

Food often becomes the grounding element of each day in my house. I love to cook, this activity often becomes the framework around which I organize my other commitments. The time and planning it takes me to cook well also seems to leave me in a position to be more flexible. For two years I cooked, almost without fail, new recipes every day (excluding leftover days). But this year has been different, I have set aside many of my favorite cookbooks, having gleaned a myriad of techniques and ideas, and resorted to pantry shopping and meal plans that rely on weekly grocery sales and local/seasonal produce as a template from which to craft our daily meals. Fortunately Allison stumbled upon Tamar Adler’s book during her last visit to CO and Tamar’s thoughts on cooking have given me lots of good food writing pleasure and cooking inspiration as I explore this different approach to food. Her summary at the end of a chapter devoted to beans (the quote up top) made my heart sing. For indeed this ‘simpler’ approach to food has lent itself to to many happy meals, some of warm bread and a large pot of well seasoned black beans others of pasta mixed with whatever vegetable I have on hand to roast or stew. And if dinner wasn’t a particular winner. . .well then it’s probably best to whisk together a yeasted waffle batter and leave it overnight on the counter so tomorrow you can start fresh with the lightest, crispiest, whole-wheat, waffles you can imagine

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Marion Cunningham’s Overnight Waffle (adapted for whole wheat) Makes 4 10″-  belgian waffles

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/8 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick butter, melted and cooled)
2 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoons baking soda

Night Before

Whisk together flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl (at least 3-quarts in capacity). Make a well in the center and pour in warm milk, water, and melted butter. Whisk all ingredients to make a smooth batter and cover with plastic wrap (or lid if you recently acquired mixing bowls with lids as I did). Leave the batter on the counter overnight to ferment, it will balloon to three times its size and collapse again.

Next Morning*

Heat and oil your waffle iron per instructions. Beat the eggs into the batter then sprinkle on the 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and stir until well mixed. Don’t worry that the batter seems very thin, the waffles will be marvelous. Pour 1 cup (plus a little more if the first one comes out poorly formed) on a 10″ waffle iron and cook until crispy and golden. Top with your desired adornments, we opted for a sprinkle of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, a drizzle of maple syrup, and blueberries garnishing the plate. But I can imagine whipped cream and strawberries also being wildly popular.

*The batter can be refrigerated for several days and cooked straight from the refrigerator. If you are only cooking a couple waffles at a time and wish to keep the batter for several breakfast just sprinkle a smidge of baking soda on top and stir in before cooking to neutralize some of the acid from the fermenting yeast. I used 1/8th teaspoon on the second morning and all was well in waffle world.

Love from CO,
Bethany

 

a slump to soften the January blues

We returned to real life this past week. It’s a good thing that real life for us is a real joy! It’s overflowing with exciting projects to work on, incredibly kind and generous people to work and walk through life with, and there’s always food, from the humblest cauliflower stew to extravagant 5 part tapas meals to usher out one year and ring in the next. I even still have several bags of Christmas cookies in my freezer. Yet, January can be a low month, the weather is often seriously cold, the snow is no longer novel and, if the weather does warm up enough to start to melt the snow, the sodden earth can’t absorb all the moisture of the melting snow and the water builds up where the cross walks meet the road leaving ice bergs that make my afternoon walk feel a bit like an arctic adventure. If you are brave enough to face the frozen wasteland outdoors when you come back inside you might need something cozy to warm you up. I certainly did, and I had it on my mind when I spied the bag of cranberries wallowing in despair at the bottom of my fruit drawer (bought for a Christmas dinner that never got made) and it was still there when I had a stop at Natural Grocers and couldn’t pass up the 3 lb bag of “past their prime” pears that could easily be salvaged and definitely shouldn’t go to waste, I found myself itching to bake. . .something cozy and sweet. Who says you have to finish all the Christmas cookies before you can bake something else? I kept thinking along the lines of a crisp, but looking through “The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook” I spied a slump recipe. Where cobbler and crisp happily collide on a stove top and give you the dessert version of chicken and dumplings. Though the recipe I found called for a combination of raspberries and cranberries I found my well ripened pears to be a perfectly acceptable substitute for the raspberries. The resulting slump, paired with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, was a lovely ending to a crisp January Thursday.

Cranberry-Pear Slump (barely adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook by Debra Daniels-Zeller)

2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups peeled and diced pears
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
2 tablespoons cold butter

Heat a heavy skillet (not cast iron) over medium heat. Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup orange juice in small bowl and set aside.  Combine the cranberries, pears, orange juice, sugar and orange zest in the skillet, pour cornstarch mixture over top. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the milk and lemon juice and set aside. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and orange zest. Mix well, making sure there are no small lumps of baking soda. Cut in the butter until the mixture has a mealy consistency. Add the milk and lemon juice and stir until a fairly thick but still sticky batter forms (I needed an extra splash of milk to achieve this texture).

Drop the batter from a heaping teaspoon onto the simmering fruit, going around the outside of the pan until you reach the middle, covering almost all of the fruit.

Cover and simmer until the dumplings are done, about 40 minutes. Serve in individual dishes topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. Serves 6

Pie!

We bailed on our Thanksgiving travel plans last minute. . . but soon enough that I could plan our own Thanksgiving feast complete with homemade pie from homegrown pumpkin (a combination of my friends real pumpkin and my pseudo pumpkin a.k.a. golden nugget squash). Then, since we we found ourselves with a four day weekend we even got to host pie and coffee for our Dominican friends and make a fruit pie to boot. While my mom’s classic Cream Cheese Pumpkin pie is a main stay, winning over even the not pumpkin pie eaters among us, I have been waiting for the prime time to try out two of Yossy Arefi’s fall pies and they were absolutely worth the wait. The Winter Luxury Pumpkin Pie boasts a creamy, perfectly set custard, mildly sweetened with maple syrup while the Pear Pie with Crème Fraîche Caramel is a show stopper replete with lattice top crust which oozes with pear juices and caramel. . .oh my! The real clincher though was Arefi’s All-Butter Pie Crust. On the surface her crust looks pretty typical: Flour, Salt, Butter, Apple Cider Vinegar, Water; but her method turns the thing almost into puff pastry (another recipe she has in her cookbook). The secret? She leaves shards of butter in the pastry and adds enough water and vinegar to make the dough clump. After a long or overnight rest in the refrigerator the crust rolls out into a flaky pastry that puffs around your fruity or creamy filling. Happy “Day After Thanksgiving!” I hope your day was full of good food and good company.

Love from CO,

Bethany

cold weather comfort food

 

aramb-lamb-stewThe sky is a startling shade of blue this morning, but yesterday that blue was no where to be seen. Rather, we hovered on the verge of what felt like imminent snow (though if I had checked a thermometer it probably would have read in the mid fifties). It was weather that called for bowls full of gut warming soup and fresh bread. In other words, it was a perfect opportunity to explore my “Gourmet Soups Cookbook” by Carole Clements. I acquired this book about 8 years ago when, one summer I decided to cook my way through 1 chocolate cookbook, 1 salad cookbook, and 1 soup cookbook. I didn’t succeed with my goal but came a lot closer with my chocolate cookbook than I did with the soups or salads because. . .chocolate! Since we are headed into a cold and blustery autumn I figured now was as good a time as ever to resume my way through the soup cookbook which is a treasure trove of cozy food. I filled our chilly evening with bowls of Arab Lamb Stew, chock full of the last remaining produce rescued from my garden and a simple spice mix that lent a wonderful aroma to my house and a modest amount of heat to our bowls. I accompanied the stew with parathas (a middle eastern unleavened bread that puffs spectacularly in the oven). The stew recipe suggested 4-6 servings but, perhaps because I was heavy handed with the produce, we will definitely get a solid 8 servings out of my soup pot full of deliciousness. I have every intention of using the extra time not spent cooking dinner tonight or tomorrow to try out an experimental canning project. Maybe. . .if it goes well, the final product will appear here. belgian-brownie-cakeletAs wonderful as a hearty bowl of stew is, there is nothing like a warm chocolate treat to end the day and SK’s belgian brownie cakelets hit the spot. I halved the recipe in an attempt to keep my sweet tooth in check but kind of wished I hadn’t. She suggests 72% dark chocolate but all I had was 65% or 85% so I did  a half and half mixture of the two and, if my math skills serve me correctly, ended up with 75% dark chocolate to go in the batter. Whatever it was certainly turned into a decadent chocolate success that the mama and daddy of the house enjoyed after the little person was sound asleep.

Love from CO,

Bethany

Arab Lamb and Chick-Pea Soup (8 servings) 

3/4 cup chick-peas (garbanzos), soaked overnight and drained, or 1 3/4 cups canned chick-peas, rinsed and drained.
1 Tablespoon olive oil (original recipe suggest 1 1/2-2 tablespoons but leg of lamb has plenty of fat and I didn’t find the full amount necessary)
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lam, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (original recipe calls for lamb shoulder but I had leftovers from a leg roast that I had set aside, if using shoulder you might need to increas the oil for browning)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fruity red wine (or you could go with a drier white wine per Clements suggestion, or skip the wine altogether)
5 cups water
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or turmeric
1 cup thinly sliced white and light green part of leeks (you will need to cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse them well to remove all traces of dirt and grit from the layers)
1 1/2 cups diced carrot
1 large potato, diced
2 cups diced zucchini (Celement suggests slicing the zucchini in half-moons but my zucchini was a giant so I opted for smaller chunks)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
To Serve: chopped cilantro or mint, a spoon full of plain yogurt, and harissa (we went with a simple sprinkle of cilantro this time around)

If using dried chick-peas, cook over medium heat in boiling unsalted water to cover generously until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain

Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan over high heat. Add enough of the lamb to cover the base of the pan sparsely and cook, stirring frequently, until evenly browned. Remove the browned meat and continue cooking in batches, adding a little more oil if needed. When the last batch is nearly browned, add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Return all the meat to the pan and add the wine, if using, water, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cinnamon and cumin. Bring just to a boil, skimming off any foam as it rises to the surface, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender. Discard the bay leaf.

Stir in the chick-peas, tomatoes, roasted peppers, saffron or turmeric, leek, carrot and potato, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and peas, and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes more, or until all the vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little harissa, if you like a spicier soup.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish with a  dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of mint or cilantro if you like.

 

It’s Autumn!

For a spectacular 20+ years, fall has always summoned the return of school, an eagerly anticipated event (for the most part). Now I send my sweetheart off to school and get to stay home and dream up ways to make our haven a little more cozy when he arrives home after long hours spent preparing for comprehensive exams. As a child, when we lived in California; there the Autumn also summoned the return of rain. Mama would pull out the play dough toys and make a fresh batch of play dough to celebrate the first day of rain. There’s nothing like rolling and molding fresh warm play dough. Then we moved to Oregon; Fall became synonymous in my mind with warm spices and baked goods, having grown past the glee of play dough I traded it for real baked goods, the ones that make your house smell fresh and homey, that beg to be enjoyed with good company and steaming coffees and teas. I began in earnest to develop my tea party expertise and, when Autumn finally arrives, I can’t help but put it to use. Little Lu will be a tea party expert (as will his daddy) in no time at all. When I find myself wondering if tea parties are a bit girly for boys, I remember all the tea parties shared with my Mama’s best friend and her rollicking flock of five handsome lads who had as much fun at a finely set tea table as they did exploring the backyard. dsc03354

This autumn I get to explore the amazing fall bounty through the fabulous recipes of Yossy Arefi (thanks to Allison) who sent “Sweeter off the Vine” my way in August. I am mid-adventure with an apple tart but my inaugural recipe was a wonderful Pear Cake. It is the perfect autumn dessert, studded with juicy pears and boasting the warm flavors of toasted nuts, it belongs on any tea table. My version swaps out hazelnuts for the chestnuts (not a chestnut to be found in my market). This necessitates a couple of extra steps, you must toast your nuts, and then grind them finely in a food processor/blender. But, on a positive note, it also means that you could make it in a bowl rather than a stand mixer, making it an accessible recipe to the mixerless provided they have a blender or food processor (the stand mixer paddle does the work of crumbling the chestnuts in Arefi’s recipe) Also, the hazelnuts have such a strong flavor that the walnuts (which add a nice texture to the cake) don’t add much additional flavor and could easily be omitted should you prefer the cake without nuts.

Love from CO,

Bethany

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Pear and Hazelnut Cake (1 9-inch cake, 8 generous slices)

    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, they do add a nice crunch though)
    • 3 medium sized pears
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used cake flour, but it is absolutely unnecessary)
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 5 oz. hazelnuts (I actually used 4 oz plus 1 ounce of walnuts, I was short a few hazelnuts)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan (I used a spring form pan but any round pan will do).

Arrange walnuts and hazelnuts in a single layer on separate baking sheets. Toast walnuts and hazelnuts for about 10 minutes, until walnuts are light brown and fragrant. Remove walnuts from the oven and continue to toast hazelnuts for 5-8 more minutes (you want them toasted all the way to their core but not burnt). Let walnuts cool to room temperature, stick hazelnuts in the freezer to speed up cooling (the must be completely cool before grinding).

When hazelnuts are cool, grind them in a food processor or blender until they are finely ground, but stop short before they turn into nut butter.

Peel, core, and chop the pears into 1/2-inch pieces. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer cream together butter, sugar, and ground hazelnuts on low until light and fluffy, this takes about 5 minutes (be patient). Add the eggs one at a time beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then fold in pears and walnuts (if using). The batter will be quite thick. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it out evenly with an offset spatula. Tap the pan gently on the counter to help the batter settle in the pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the edges are golden brown, 40-50 minutes (err on the longer side, my cake fell and the center was gummy at 40 minutes). Let cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for two days (This is no joke, our final pieces on day 3 may have been developing some additional fermented flavors, you may have better luck storing extras well wrapped in the fridge).

Making the most of the blackberries

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Yesterday morning, Gavin had laser focus: playing on his tractor, snacking on blackberries and meandering down to the pile of felled pines (his favorite, most exciting play place) were all on the list. But I got stuck on the blackberries. And since I only have a few weeks each year to obsess over them (plus that wonderful time in winter when we pull a few bags out of the freezer) I figure I can get away with that. So when we came in from our playing and berrying expedition, it was time to put the harvest to use.

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I think it took less than an hour to piece together these little wonders (including crust-making time) so don’t be put off by their daintiness and tininess!

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Blackberry Hand Pies (makes about 28)

Crust:

2 C. Flour (I used whole wheat and it was fine, but I’m sure regular flour would be excellent as well)

3/4 tsp. Salt

3/4 tsp. Baking Powder

3/4 C. Butter, cut into 1″ cubes

1 Egg

1 Tbs. Apple cider vinegar

4 Tbs. Ice-cold water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, then cut in the butter till the mixture is fine and crumby. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar and water. Add half of this liquid combination to the flour and stir it in. Continue adding in small amounts till the dough is easily formed into a ball, but not gooey. Shape into two balls, wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate while you mix up the filling.

Blackberry Filling:

2 1/2 C. Fresh blackberries

1/4 C. White Sugar

1/4 C. Brown Sugar

1/8 C. Flour

1-2 tsp. Ground nutmeg

Gently stir together blackberries, sugars, flour and nutmeg until everything is dissolved into the blackberry juices.

Assemble Hand Pies:

On a lightly floured pastry cloth, roll out one of the balls of pie dough into a fairly thin sheet. Using a 4-5″ bowl, cup or biscuit cutter, cut out circles of dough. Place a few Tablespoons of filling onto each circle of dough, fold one half over the filling and crimp the edges together (the result should be a pretty half-moon shape, probably with a few ragged holes in some of them, like mine!).  Place on baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling till both are used up. Cover hand pies with aluminum foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until they are golden and bubbling with blackberry juice. Enjoy (preferably after a few minutes of cooling)!

Love from Oregon,

Faerynn M.

P.S. There are a lot of blackberries out there: prepare yourself for more recipes!d

A trio of tasty things

Towards the end of June we went on a retreat to a place in northeastern Connecticut. We were a gaggle of ancient philosophers in an enormous lodge with an enormous porch and a bucolic view of rolling green hills (and fireflies at night!)  And it was wonderful: philosophy by day, all fun in the evening (of the bonfire and mixed drink variety). Since it was our university’s turn to organize the retreat, we were responsible for all the groceries. One of the excellent results of this state of affairs was that there was a lot of left-over food: trail mix, granola, yogurt, nuts, and so, so many bananas.

Now. I do not like bananas. But I do like banana bread, and I believe that I have found the holy grail of banana bread recipes (from–you guessed it!–SK!) The secret to Smitten Kitchen’s “Jacked-Up Banana Bread” is supposed to be a little bourbon. But I used a honeyed Jack Daniels, since it was all I had on hand. I also threw in a handful of dessicated, plain coconut, because it was calling to me from the pantry shelf, and swapped half the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat. The bread was dark, dense, moist, and just the right amount of sweet. We ate it for breakfast and again for an afternoon snack. And when it ran out two days later, I promptly made another loaf with the rest of the languishing bananas.

***

July has seen two other SK recipes, both desserts. The first was her deep dish apple pie (from the book; but it’s probably on her site somewhere as well), which I made with left-over retreat apples for the Fourth of July. What a dream. Layers of apples, sliced small, drowning in their own juices and just a touch of sugar; a crunchy struedel topping; and that delectable all-butter pastry crust. Plus, you get the fun of filling an entire skillet with pie dough and putting it, handle and all, into the oven. I would not change a thing about it.

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Last, but certainly not least, the Sticky Toffee Pudding. When I let drop that it had dates in it, people were skeptical. I know: dates sound like a health food. But are they really? Probably not when you chop them fine, bake them into a cake, and then slather the results with homemade whipped cream and toffee sauce, and just a sprinkle or two of crushed sea salt (I hand-crushed mine with a mortar and pestle).

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My normally sweet-shy philosopher took an intense liking to this one. After we wowed our dinner guests with it, he took to eating the remainder in tiny slices (with all the fixings!) with his morning coffee. I tried this once, but the sugar (and there is a lot of sugar in it) went straight to my head. I’d recommend it as an afternoon pick-me-up instead of breakfast accompaniment.

(A quick kitchen note: one thing I was a bit surprised by was how difficult it was to evenly mix the cake batter with the pureed date sauce. I felt like my cake turned out a little more clumpy than I would have expected or liked. I think I would add the date sauce more slowly next time and stir more thoroughly between additions.)

That’s it for now! I have a busy few days ahead: more writing to do, a meeting in New York next week, and after that the move to our first apartment. It’s only a few blocks away, but it feels like the start of something new. I can’t wait.

Love from CT,

Allison

 

 

In which we eat nothing but zucchini

I grew a garden this year! It is beautiful and has been balm to my soul. I love the dirt under my finger nails and the tan lines on my little boys feet from mornings spent caring for our little plants. Back in May I sadly bemoaned my plight when it appeared that only one struggling zucchini plant had germinated in my garden, though I couldn’t complain since my seeds were 5 years old. And then I cheerfully reminded myself zucchini plants are always over producers, one will be just fine for my family of three. Not 24 hours later (I kid not) five eager zucchini plants popped up in their assigned hills. In the last seven days I have used 7 zucchinis (just from the first plant) and still have one in the fridge and one ready to be picked. Good thing we all love zucchini around here! Also, good thing Smitten Kitchen has recipes by vegetable, I plan to cook my way through zucchini top to bottom. Tonight we enjoyed her amazing zucchini and ricotta galette. The crust for this really is no less than amazing and (if you are comfortable with pie crust rolling) makes for a great quick supper since you can make the crust early and then roll out and top it later in the day. I also sliced my zucchini and laid it out 3 hours ahead of time (not the recommended 30 minutes) and it worked out just fine. So feel free to prep as early as you need to keep dinner time simple.

Now, I realize that if you are adding a quarter pound of butter to something, it might be hard to call it healthy and leads to a question, why try to make it healthier by adding say whole wheat? But, I only had whole wheat flour on hand this afternoon so made 100% whole wheat pie crust using SK’s recipe from the zucchini galette and it turned out Amaaazing! So, while I don’t always substitute whole wheat, and I am not sure there are significant health claims to be made, if you only have it on hand I would absolutely use it here without worrying that it will lend to a disappointing crust. . .the butter and sour cream certainly mitigate the density of the whole grain leaving a flaky and tender handle for all of your summer zucchini.

Love from CO,
Bethany

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette (Serves 6)

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat pastry flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes*
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again*
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (SK calls for lemon juice which I didn’t have on hand)
1/4 cup ice water

*I cut my butter into the flour and then stuck the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes and it worked out just fine.

Filling:
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella (muenster also works)
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

Glaze:
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and (here, since I hadn’t pre chilled my ingredients I stuck everything in the freezer for 15 minutes) use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas (I purposefully left visible beads of butter). In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (I refrigerated mine for 3 hours with great results).

Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes (up to 3 hours); gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella (I used muenster cause I failed at purchasing mozzarella  2 days in a row), and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

S is for Summer and Salad

DSC03141Not living in a air conditioned space during the summer changes my attitude towards cooking. As in, I do everything in my power to avoid turning on the oven (unless it is Monday afternoon and I know that after my mega piano practice session I are going to need some cake to make it through the rest of the day, but that didn’t happen this afternoon. . . nope, definitely not). The summer that I was pregnant I discovered that salad was summer’s saving grace, in particular a lightly sauced, wonderfully tart, potato, green bean, and arugula salad topped with toasted walnuts that I have fallen head over heels for. I make it every summer; it is seriously just as wonderful post pregnancy as it was mid-term. It satisfies the “I want potato salad” craving but turns it into a meal of its own. And, if your two year old has a thing about not mixing different foods together, don’t worry, each individual part can be put in its own section of the divider plate (minus the greens which Lu has an aversion to)!

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It can even be deconstructed into its constituent parts and become 2.5 year old friendly!

Thanks SK for adding something so wonderful to my life! My only alterations were to use smallish red potatoes and quarter them. Also, I swap out olive oil in the dressing for the walnut oil called for (even though I know walnut oil would be amazing) because I never seem to have it in my cupboard, and I use balsamic vinegar because I like it here (SK suggests white or other mild vinegar).

Hope you enjoy!
Bethany

Arugula, potato and green bean salad (4 dinner sized salads for light eaters)

1 ounce walnuts (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes quartered
6 ounces haricots, verts, or other green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments (I have also used asparagus cut into similar sizes)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces baby arugula

Preheat oven to 375°. Place walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a colander to drain and cool. Set aside.

Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Return pan of water to a boil. Add green beans, and cook until tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Drain.

Whisk together vinegar, yogurt, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; season with pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Set dressing aside.

Arrange arugula, potatoes, and green beans on a platter. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with toasted walnuts; toss to coat.